Tuesday, April 3, 2012

VTAC Light Mount and SR-556 Compatibility

Some time ago, I purchased a Viking Tactics VTAC light mount for my AR15.  After looking at all the light mount manufacturers out there, I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to spend too much money just to test my Streamlight Scorpion X under fire.  Yes, part of my testing included mounting it on the end of my gun and firing nearly a thousand rounds down range.  Call me crazy if you want.  I'll take it as a compliment.  If it could handle the recoil of the gun, then it definitely would be suitable as a rugged handheld light.  In fact, the light did fantastic.  It works perfectly still, after being banged around, dropped, mounted to a gun, and thrown in the water.  But this entry isn't about the light itself; let's talk about the mount I used for testing: the VTAC.

The VTAC light mount is a polymer mount that weighs in at just 1 7/8 ounce.  It is designed to be mounted on a picatinny rail and accepts lights of .80" or 1" diameter.  It accommodates the smaller diameter lights with a little ring adapter that is included.  Note, my Scorpion measures about .90" diameter, so I used an old rubber sleeve that I replaced to use as a shim.  It worked great.  The mount attaches to the picatinny rail using two metal screws.  It's a very simple piece that is extremely durable.  The flashlight is clamped into the mount with another two metal screws that hold it securely in place.  My light never moved around at all.

At just $25, the VTAC is a high value option for folks who want to get a light mounted to their gun, but can't justify the expense of other high dollar mounts.  The VTAC works just as well as it's more expensive brethren.  In fact, after my light testing was complete, I just left the thing mounted to my gun. I figured, "what the hell?"  It worked fine for me.  I moved it from the original spot I had it (see the first picture above) and got the mount secured to the top rail of my oh-so fantastic Daniel Defense Omega 7 rail.  It was pretty much out of the way up there, and it put the light in the 11:30 o'clock position in relation to my barrel, which I quickly fell in love with.  It works ideally with the thumb break method of shooting I use.

The VTAC is pretty low profile.  Now, I know there are some "low profile" mounts out there.  Some are not as low profile as they'd lead you to believe.  The problem with mounts that position the flashlight over the piece of rail they're bolted to is that the light now sticks out passed the rail, and makes for a really wide business end.  Now, if that doesn't bother you, then no problem.  What bothered me, especially about having the light on the same horizontal plane as my side rail was the fact that my support hand grip suffered.  Either I'd have to use a tennis racket grip on my VFG or pull my hand all the way back to the magazine well on my carbine length gun.  This is not conducive to fast and accurate shooting, where switching from one target to the next without excessive muzzle sway is important.  The nice thing about the VTAC is it locates the light closer to the bore axis of the barrel offsets it from the rail line.  As you can see in the picture to the right, my hand is free to sit right about under it, which then gives my thumb the perfect spot to activate the flashlight controls without shifting my grip.  Awesome!

Since the rail on my Rock River Arms carbine didn't touch the gas block, there was no problem with excessive barrel heat melting my VTAC light mount.  We run into a compatibility issue with the Ruger SR-556FB however.

On my SR-556, there was a bit of rail section milled out of the gas regulator housing.  Initially, when I installed the light, I thought nothing of it.  However, after eyeball fucking the rifle for an hour, I realized a problem with the arrangement.  The gas regulator housing gets very hot when firing.  In fact, it gets hot enough that it would soon melt the high tech polymer VTAC light mount.  There was also a possibility that any heat transfer to the flashlight would melt the rubber housing that surrounds the aluminum light.  As it sat, the combination just wouldn't work like that.  So, I moved it to the side, keeping the light up around the 11 o'clock position.  Unfortunately, the light mount impinged on the front sight detent, so it could not be operated without removing the light mount.  I could always move the front sight back, but reducing the sight radius to accommodate a light is a stupid compromise.  Big boy rules say it's time to get a different setup.

Now that's not to say that I didn't try to do other things.  I tried to mount the light behind the front sight, on the top rail, like I did with my RRA, but instead of the mount impinging on the front sight detent, the bezel on the light did!  If mounted on the other side, it was impossible to reach.  I don't like pressure switches and wires running all over my gun, so I wasn't about to try that.  Couldn't put it on the bottom right or left because it doesn't compliment my shooting style and the way I've been training ever since switching to the AR platform.  I'm not about to go changing an entire manual of arms training regiment on account of a $75 light and mount setup.  There is just no way.

Now, none of this is the fault of the VTAC itself, no no no.  This is simply part of the process of going from one AR15 style to another; direct impingement (DI) to piston.  These are just some of the teething issues that I have to deal with on a new design.  As far as the mount itself goes, I give it a solid 10 out of 10 because of the ease of use with traditional DI guns, even carbines, the quality construction, light weight, and the value price point of just $25 bucks!  You can't go wrong with this mount... unless you're running a Ruger SR-556 piston gun.

So, what's my solution?  Stay tuned.

-James

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